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Region: More beds needed for veterans

Councillors vote to call on province to bring additional long-term beds to Durham for veterans

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The Region of Durham will soon be contacting the province to say that it needs more long-term beds for veterans.

Passed unanimously at the final regional council meeting of 2016, councillors voted in favour of the motion which will call on the province to provide more long-term care beds for veterans, but not at the expense of losing beds elsewhere in the system.

“It is an issue, and I’m hearing about it. I can’t be the only one hearing about veterans waiting for long-term facilities,” Councillor John Neal, who proposed the motion, said.

“There’s one in particular I know about right now, and he’s not in very good health. He’s 94, he’s no longer able to stay in his house and his wife is no longer there to look after him.”

The motion was originally proposed at the Nov. 9 meeting of regional council, but was tabled for a month after councillors felt the original wording could leave things open for already established long-term care beds being converted to ones for veterans.

Councillor Willie Woo of Clarington said that the need for long-term care beds goes beyond just those for veterans.

“I think there’s about 80,000 long-term care beds in Ontario, and that number hasn’t been increased probably since 1995. There’s a growing and aging population – that group is growing. In Clarington, there are 160 beds that will be moved to Whitby. Not creating new beds – those beds are moving to Whitby,” he said.

“Those 160 beds are moving. That means that we’re short 160 beds. That means for the loved ones that want to visit, now they’ll have to go to Oshawa or Whitby or maybe Beaverton or wherever.”

According to data from the website of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, there are 9,684 long-term care beds in the Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) – which includes Durham Region along with the east end of Toronto, Peterborough, the Kawarthas, Haliburton and Northumberland – as of October 2016.

The same data also shows that the number of people above the age of 75 in the Central East LHIN will more than double between now and 2035, going from approximately 120,000 to more than 250,000 people.

Veterans Affairs Canada also provides funding to go towards long-term care for veterans. Councillor Bob Chapman says that while this funding helps, it only meets part of the need.

“Long-term care beds and everything else in the social services area, there’s never enough money to do everything. This is why we have the Royal Canadian Legion’s poppy funds…to try to raise that extra money to help with those sorts of things,” he said.

“It’s the same as our affordable housing and our social services – it’s what the federal government deals out in their budget as to what Veterans Affairs can do with that.”